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'Is Interim Compensation Granted To Affected Families': Uttarakhand High Court Asks In Chamoli Disaster Case

Akshita Saxena
7 Jun 2021 5:32 AM GMT
Is Interim Compensation Granted To Affected Families: Uttarakhand High Court Asks In Chamoli Disaster Case
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The Uttarakhand High Court has issued notice on a PIL seeking compensation for families affected by the glacial disaster that took place on February 7 in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district. A Division Bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice AK Verma has inquired if any interim compensation has been granted to the affected families, whose houses were uprooted in the disaster. The...

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The Uttarakhand High Court has issued notice on a PIL seeking compensation for families affected by the glacial disaster that took place on February 7 in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice AK Verma has inquired if any interim compensation has been granted to the affected families, whose houses were uprooted in the disaster.

The Bench has also asked the Central and the State Government to file their objections in the matter by June 20. The matter is posted for June 25.

The petition has been filed by one PC Tewari, claiming to be a climate change activist through Advocates Singdha Tewari and Kranti LC. The petition states that the concerned authorities omitted in taking proper measures post disaster to ensure proper registration of those who went missing, in searching for those missing in the debris, issuing death certificate, making a proper rehabilitation scheme and payment of compensation to the immediate relatives of those who lost their lives in the disaster.

As of date, it is submitted, a total of 204 workers have been deemed missing out of which more than 50 people have been confirmed dead. However, the pet has alleged, these numbers are only reflective of the registered employees and not wage workers, and it is estimated that far more people are missing, or are dead.

A prayer is therefore made for directing the Respondents to prepare a list of all deceased and those who are missing, inclusive of not just contract labourers but also daily wage labourers and any other persons who lost their lives in the disaster, and, to compensate their families and to ensure their right to livelihood.

It is also stated that the flood took approximately twenty minutes to reach the Tapovan Dam which would have been sufficient time to save multiple lives, if proper early warning systems were installed.

"On the day of the incident, no early warning mechanism activated at the site of the disaster. There were no proper escape routes constructed at the dam sites as a pre-emptive measure to mitigate the loss of human life. The workers were also not equipped with proper gear, and were only given boots and helmets," the plea states.

Thus, it is urged that a direction be passed for installation of early warning system in terms of the Ravi Chopra Committee Report. Additionally, the workers in all hydropower project sites should be imparted proper training, be apprised about escape routes, and be provided with proper gears.

It is further alleged that the authorities failed in monitoring whether the companies running and constructing hydropower projects in the area are fulfilling requisite safety standards for the workmen.

Furthermore, the Project developers of affected the sites, i.e., (i) Rishiganga Power Project of Kundan Group company; (ii) Tapovan-Vishnugad Project of NTPC; and (iii) Rithwik Project Pvt. Ltd; failed to appraise that the projects are in Paraglacial influence zone which would have made the projects geologically unviable and the lives of hundreds would have not put to risk.

So far as reports of workers being trapped in the tunnel are concerned, the Petitioner alleges that the same was a result of keeping barrage gates closed when the Sludge hit the project site, which if were kept open could have helped the flow of the flood debris downstream, and which could have saved a number of more lives.

"The respondent no 2 committed grave negligence of keeping the tunnel gates open and the gates of the barrage closed which led the sludge to enter inside the tunnel where workers were working claiming hundreds of lives of the workers who got trapped inside the tunnel without any escape route," states the petition.

The Petitioner has therefore urged that a direction be made to the Uttarakhand High Court for booking the abovenamed companies for causing death by negligence under Section 304A of IPC.

A glacial outbreak in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand on February 7, 2021 caused massive damage to life and property. This disaster occurred due to a break in a glacier, leading to landslide and floods in the region.

The Petitioner has alleged that this break occurred due to a crack formation on the Nanda Ghunti mountain. It is also alleged that the crack was captured on and February 2 through satellite imaging, five days before the disaster took place but no preventive measures were deployed in the region.

Case Title: PC Tewari v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors.


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